DOHA ASIAN GAMES – Taufik, Wang Chen crowned champions

Doha : A day before the badminton event at the Asian Games began, an Indonesian journalist commented to this reporter: "If Taufik says he will win the title, he will. […]

ImageDoha : A day before the badminton event at the began, an Indonesian journalist commented to this reporter: "If Taufik says he will win the title, he will. If he feels like it, he can beat anybody. Everything depends on his mood."

By Dev S Sukumar, Badzine correspondent, photos (live : Badmintonphoto)

On the eve of the men’s singles final, however, that was sounding more and more like an empty boast. Lin Dan had twice beaten the Olympic champion in the team championships. He seemed far too fit and strong, and the men’s singles final looked destined for the Chinese world No.1.

 

On Saturday evening, however, nobody in the world could have touched Taufik Hidayat. The Indonesian had pulled his body and mind together for a performance that even the Chinese could not help but applaud as he took apart Lin Dan over two games to retain his Asian Games gold. Even as he finished things off with a tap, the same Indonesian journalist turned to this reporter: "I told you!" he screamed above the crowd’s roar. "If Taufik says he will win, he will!" 

But a mention first of the other events of the day: Hong Kong’s Wang Chen won her biggest title by subduing compatriot Yip Pui Yin for the women’s singles gold;

Malaysia and China split the other two doubles gold medals on offer – Koo Kien Keat/ Tan Boon Heong and Gao Ling/ Huang Sui ending up on the winners’ podium. 

Virtuoso performance

Given Lin’s recent record over Taufik, he was expected to take the singles gold medal too, but it was clear from the start that this was a different Taufik than the one he had faced earlier. The Olympic champion kept the shuttle on a string and made Lin dance to his tunes. So overwhelmed was the Chinese by Taufik’s control and variety that he kept making uncharacteristic errors, and even his famed jump smash was nowhere on target. 

Every stroke that the Indonesian played was textbook stuff – his net play coaxed the shuttle just over the tape, his drops died once it crossed into Lin’s court, while his tosses pinned the Chinese to the baseline. Only intermittently did the world No.1 look capable of even taking a point – that he got 15 in the set was only due to some imprecision in the Indonesian’s otherwise faultless performance.

Only half-way through the second game did the Chinese shake off the spell of the Indonesian, working Taufik around to fire in a smash to his backhand. That seemed to lift him as he quickly drew level at 11-all, and then jumped ahead at 15-11. He was finding his big jump smashes, and Taufik seemed to be tiring, and when Lin earned a game point, it seemed all was over for the Indonesian. A third game was out of the question, for he could never hope to keep pace with the superior fitness of the Chinese.

Then came a stroke of luck for Taufik, as Lin made an error at the net, and then played a tired shot to make the score 20-all. Another error made it match point for the Indonesian, and he finally killed a tap at the net to ensure a sleepless night for all his Indonesian fans. 

ImageEarlier, Hong Kong’s Wang Chen used her vast experience to stifle her young compatriot Yip Pui Yin 21-14, 22-20 to take the gold medal. Yip had stunned second seed Zhang Ning in the quarterfinal with her big jump smashes and a hustling style of play, and Wang Chen knew she could not allow her young rival to dictate the pace, and hardly allowed her a couple of smashes in the entire first game.

Yip, however, showed surprising dexterity near the net to keep apace of Wang in the second set. The game was close until 19-all, but Wang Chen earned match point with a smash to Yip’s back hand; Yip again drew level with a smash of her own, but the more experienced player finally tipped the tape after her young rival faltered at the net. 

ImageIn the other two finals of the day, the legendary Chinese pair of Gao Ling and Huang Sui won the doubles gold over their young compatriots Zhang Jiewen and Yang Wei 18-21, 23-21, 21-14, while Malaysians Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong had it easy over the Indonesian pair Luluk Hadiyanto and Alvent Yulianto 21-13, 21-14. 

Results (finals):

Men’s Singles: T Hidayat (Ina) bt Lin Dan (China) 21-15, 22-20

Women’s Singles: Wang Chen (HK) bt Yip Pui Yin (HK) 21-14, 22-20

Women’s Doubles: Gao Ling/ Huang Sui (Chn) bt Zheng Jiewen/ Yang Wei (Chn) 18-21, 23-21, 21-14

Men’s Doubles: Koo Kien Keat/ Tan Boon Heong (Mas) bt Luluk Hadiyanto/ Alvent Yulianto (Ina) 21-13, 21-14.

Mixed Doubles: Gao Ling/ Zheng Bo (Chn) bt Zhongbo/ Zhang Yawen (Chn) 21-16, 25-23

About Dev Sukumar